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UNC summer students experience food insecurity, limited options for food on campus

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The Campus Y is pictured on Tuesday, June 20, 2023.

Over the summer, students on campus do not have the option of a meal plan and must pay for every meal. Lunch and dinner at Chase Dining Hall and the Top of Lenoir are both just under $15 per meal, not including tax.

“I didn't know that the dining halls weren't open when I first started taking summer classes, and I did not have the funds and I was terrified about what I was going to eat — like terrified,” LeeAnn Zainy, a summer resident adviser, said. “There was one time where all I had was cereal and milk, and that was breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Unlike during the school year, over the summer, Top of Lenoir Dining Hall, has limited opening hours. Chase Dining Hall, on South campus, now closes at 7:00 p.m. Along with Alpine Bagel, it is the latest dining option for students.

On-campus retail dining options have limited hours during the summer. Chick-fil-A in Bottom of Lenior closes at 3:00 p.m, and places like Burrito Bowl and Sushinara are closed all summer. 

“It’s actually been pretty difficult to find actually nutritious meals,” Zainy said. 

Zainy has vitamin deficiencies, which requires them to seek out a variety of food options that a meal plan and more accommodating dining hours could provide.

The lack of dining resources, options and hours makes it even harder for summer students with dietary restrictions to find adequate sources of food, April Adesina, a summer school student who is a pescatarian, said.

“It definitely is a lot more limited for me, or people who are pescatarian, vegetarian or even vegan," she said.  "It's a lot harder when the only things that are open is Chick-fil-A and you don’t want any more french fries."

When easily accessible and nourishing food becomes less attainable for students, Zainy has found it can affect their success in school.

“It makes you tired,” they said. “You don’t have any energy. It causes frustration, it causes worry. You’re thinking about your next meal, you’re not looking down at the assignment.”

Imani Rankins, co-president of the Campus Y, said the lack of food security on campus during the summer leads students to consistently seek out quicker options, that might not be what the student wants or needs for their diet.

“And it's like, ‘Okay, I’ll get this out of the vending machine, or I’ll get another bagel from Alpine,’ but you might want an actual meal with rice and veggies and a protein, maybe, or fruit, but that's not even something you can think about," Rankins said.

On Franklin Street, dining options may not always be cost-effective, Rankins said, posing a challenge to many students who do not have the funds to buy takeout for every meal. 

“‘And it's just like, where are the resources for me to eat right, but also be able to afford it?'” Rankins said. 

While there are resources available to students who are facing food insecurity over the summer, Zainy said this information is not well known to many students.

Carolina Cupboard, an on-campus community food pantry located in the basement of Avery Hall, is closed for the summer, but the Campus Y provides a mutual-aid food pantry during the summer for students and the UNC community.

The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. without a UNC One Card, and past 6 p.m. with a One Card. It is also open for donations of non-perishable items and foods that can be heated with a microwave. 

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